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Archive for January, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year to all

For my friends here in China, I am wishing you a happy and healthy Chinese New Year. Your country has been my home since last March 2011 and I have learned so much about my surrounding and your culture.

Thank you for having us in your life.

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Flour

My mouth produces extra saliva every time I mention the word ‘flour’. Flour for me represents mountains of baking goods which are my obsession on this life. I love eating baking goods and most of all, baking goods are very intriguing to me. It is one thing to cook but an entirely different thing to bake. Baking involves ‘chemistry’, a bounding of ingredients together to create unique and perfect cakes, pies, cookies, pastries, oh and breads… yes, breads…

For me, a real piece of baking well takes to know the technic on ‘how to’ instead of ‘ingredients to’ because when I know how to make it, the ingredients involved are left to the imagination of the cook. Of course, there are basic ingredients to start with, like sugar, eggs, butter and flour.

Flour has its unique property and those properties change with the country I am residing at the precise moment of one of my creation. So this is one of the reason I do not like recipes written because the ingredients will change the recipe, depending where I sit that day and which store I go to get them.

Somewhere, somehow, the majority of the people do not a recipe, guideline to start somewhere which is very understandable. I cook and bake with a ‘know how’ most of the time and not with a ‘recipe’.

Flour, a recipe book, written by Joanne Chang, is a wonderful tool to have around my house. Mrs. Chang has an easy way to explain the principals of baking, in a very simple way and so far, every recipe I have tried from her book, with my own adjustments here and there, came out to be winners. We bake the same way I guest!

Yesterday, using her recipe for granola bar, page 154, I came out with this perfect granola bar, one that I have been searching for few years, to nip it to my own likes. You see, because I move so often, I need a granola bar with a good base, as a starter, to hold all the ingredients together in a bar. So this recipe does deliver that to me. It holds it shape, once done. So no matter if I use sesame seeds or walnuts or whatever I have handy, if I follow the ‘know how’ of her recipe, I will achieve what I am looking for in a granola bar.

Her pate brisée on page 92 came as a dream come true to me, after having tried for so many years to succeed in making pie dough, without any accomplishment. The pate brisée is made with true butter and the technic explained is what makes it a miracle for me.

Pop tarts, on page 88, is also a winner. I have that thing about pop tarts. I do not know why but it does something to my hunger stat every time I see a box of pop tart on a shelf (I did spot them here in Shenyang…). Over time, the store pop tarts got smaller in size and smaller in taste, which is the reason I made those as soon I saw the recipe in the book. Just one statement here about this recipe: ‘They are out of this word. They are so good and very easy to make.’

Sticky buns, what can I say to this… I made those a while ago, and they are, to me, the perfect breakfast pastry. In her book, Mrs Chang has a similar recipe on page 84. Mine was made with cranberries at that time, with a different recipe but it was so good. I shall make them again in the very near future.

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Granola

Shenyang granola bars

I am on a quest to find the perfect granola bar for myself, to carry with me whenever I travel. What I am looking for in a granola bar is the holding part, meaning that the bar holds its shape as a bar in my hand, with a minimum of crumbs detaching from it.

The fruits, the nuts and the sweetness come in second because a granola bar is a personal thing. The taste and the choice of ingredients all sit on a board of unlimited availability.

So that been said, I have tried two recipes so far. The first one is very good, has a good tang to it but does not hold it all together once it is cut up. The granola breaks apart here and there, making it impossible to cut a perfect bar out of the entire pan.

Fruit tea granola bars

8 oz rice krispy cereal

1.5 oz seeds

3 oz nuts, any kind

1.2 oz of cookie crumbs

6 oz honey or maple syrup

1.75 oz brown sugar

1 oz butter

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt

6.5 oz dry fruit, any kind

Spread cereal, seeds an nuts in a baking pan and roast in the oven at 350F, 15 minutes.

Mix honey, brown sugar, butter, vanilla and salt together. Bring it to a boil, on the stove until the sugar has melted.

Reduce oven temperature to 300F, remove the baking pan and drop the sugar mixture on top of the nuts, mix well. Press it back in the pan and bake for 25 minutes at 300F.

Let it cool, and cut into squares or bars.

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This recipe is perfect for a granola breakfast, served with milk, in a small bowl in the morning but it falls away from my wish tree!

Second recipe was based from Granola bars, from the book ‘Flour’ by Joanne Chang. I followed the ‘how to’ but not the ingredients as I did put my own ingredients, according to my taste and my kitchen. After I let it cool a bit, I cut the bars and then, let it cool. So far, on this picture below, the bar is holding itself with almost no crumbs, and it is still warm to the touch. I am pretty confident that this Granola bars Shenyang will be the one to travel with me. The recipe reminds me a lot of the matrimonial bars I did a while ago. Lots of fruits inside, the way I like bars.


Granola bars Shenyang

400 g dry fruits cut up in pieces

1/3 cup sugar

480 g water

Mix together in a pan, bring to a boil, cover and let it sit for one hour, heat turned off. In a blender, chop the cooked fruit, until reaching a chunky jam look.

100 g nuts

245 g white flour

150 g cookie crumbs

150 g dark brown sugar

80 g almonds cut up

1 teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

230 g butter

6 tablespoons of maple syrup

Turn the oven on at 350F, Mix the nuts, flour, cookie crumbs, sugar, almonds, salt, cinnamon together in a large bowl. Add the butter and use your hand to mix it all well. Add the maple syrup and keep mixing by hand. Pray 2/3 of this mix in a pan, lined with parchment paper. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes. Put the remaining 1/3 of the mix in the fridge.

Spray the jam over the cookie mix, evenly.

Mix :

3 tablespoons of flaxseeds

3 tablespoons of almonds, cut up in piece

3 tablespoons of walnuts or other nuts, cut up

Add the nuts mix to the remaining of the 1/3 of the flour mix and mi well until it holds together. Spray this mix over the jam, covering completely. It will be crumbly. I myself, used a rolling pin and roll the 1/3 mix between two parchment papers, making it look like a pastry dough for a pie and layed it over the jam, cutting the edges to adjust to the size of the pan. Push it down a bit.

Return the pan in the oven, at 350F, and bake for an additional 50 minutes. Let it cool a bit, cut it into bars and let it cool down completely before removing the bars from the pan. Wrap individually in plastic sheets.

Granola bars Shenyang

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Ice sculpture in Shenyang

My beloved park transforms itself into a huge ice sculpture displays. Here are some pictures we took this week, one evening during a bitter crispy night in Shenyang.

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Making dumplings

Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays.

It marks the end of the winter season. Chinese New Year’s eve (this year, the Chinese New Year’s eve falls Saturday, January 22 and the new year starts on Sunday, January 23), a day where Chinese families gather for their annual reunion dinner is marked by the supper, a feast with families, including such items as pigs, ducks, chicken and sweet delicacies. In northern China, where I live, it is customary to make dumplings (jiaozi) after dinner to eat around midnight. Dumplings symbolize wealth because of their shape resembles a Chinese tael.

So armed with our two hands and a smile, yesterday night, we decided to participate in such a family making tradition…

We ended up in making a ton; I mean a ton of dumplings, what an experience it was. Here is a recipe of dumplings I have made earlier this year. Basically, the making of dumpling is all in skill of the cook, the way to make the dough, to hold it while filling and to get the skill of an artist to close it properly. I ate over 20 dumplings… all by myself…!

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*If you need to make one very safe recipe for yourself or to bring to somebody else, do this one… You will thank me for it.

Time to make some ‘homemade’ fudge from back home.

A gentil monsieur from my home country, got me those ingredients, including the recipe from his mother, for me to make fudge. The trade is: ‘You make a batch and give me some of it…’.

No problem, so here is the very simple recipe:

350g chocolate pieces

1 can of condensed milk

1 ¼ cups of icing sugar with a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

½ cup walnuts, chopped, optional

Melt chocolate pieces with the milk, in a pan over the stove. Add the sugar and vanilla and mix well. Drop the mix into a container lined with wax paper. Let it cool down in the fridge before cutting.  Nothing else to do, this recipe works wonders.

I told you it was a simple recipe!

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Happy new year 2012

Capri beach

For 2012, I wish you to laugh more, I wish you to love more, I wish you success in your work, at school.

Do not worry about what you cannot control.

Be happy!

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